Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blog Migration

This blog has moved to There is also a Facebook page now for the blog and the forthcoming book. If you came to this site looking for the Breakup Cleanse blog, click here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why is the Unattainable So Hot?

We desire things we can't get, including unattainable romantic partners. Why is the unattainable so hot? Here is the standard answer: The unattainable is in some sense rare. Rare things are valuable. As we value what we know is valuable, we want that man or woman we can't get.

All this may be true. But I think there is more to it. A number of factors play a role in making us so obsessed with getting what we can't get. Here are the top three.

Potential Affirmation
If only you could get the guy or girl that you and no one else can get, you would be very special.

The Unattainable Leaves Room for Idealization
What stays at a distance is easier to see in a positive light. You are not exposed to the real person with all of his or her flaws.

The Unattainable is Mysterious
We crave what is mysterious. It arouses us and fascinates us. In that respect, the mysterious is similar to horror. Think of Halloween's Michael Myers appearing in the doorway of Linda van der Klok's bedroom. Lynda is filing her nails, patiently waiting for her lover to return with beer. Myers is covered by a white sheet and is wearing Lynda's dead lover's glasses. Or think of the final shot in the Blair Witch Project where Mike is standing in the corner, facing the wall. Even though these scenes are terrifying, we like the feelings they generate in us.

What is it about horror that is so fascinating? I think it's the fact that we cannot interpret the horror movie antagonists in normal ways. Standard theories of mind don't apply. Horror movie antagonists are generally uncommunicative. They don't say a whole lot, and they often have no facial expressions (e.g., they wear masks). We see them only briefly. They prevent us from assessing their intentions and emotions. We cannot interpret their facial expressions. We don't know what they are going to do next. They are unpredictable and unreliable. It's the fact that we can't place them in our ordinary schemes for interpreting people that inspires anxiety and fear. They puzzle us and allow our brains to dwell on them in order to try to understand them. That is what fuels our attraction.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part VI

Week 4: Fill your calendar with fun

Still no word from him? It’s time to move on then. Fill your calendar with fun activities. By "fun activities" I mean activities that are bound to make you laugh (or at least smile), things that would have been fun if your ex hadn't just broken up with you. You may not feel that this is something you can do. But you really need to do it.

Laughter is the best way to survive a breakup. Norman Cousins, a layperson with no prior medical training, was the first to suggest that humor can improve physical health through its miraculous effects on the brain. When diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause the joints in the spine to fuse, Cousins invented a healing system that combined massive amounts of vitamin C and humor. He recovered from near-paralysis and wrote the book "Anatomy of an Illness." He later used the same method to recover from a heart attack. Cousins' work has appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Lee Berk, an immunologist at Loma Linda University's School of Allied Health and Medicine, has studied the effects of mirthful laughter on the regulation of hormones since the 1980s. Berk and his colleagues found that laughter helps the brain regulate the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. They also discovered a link between laughter and the production of anti-bodies and endorphins, the body's natural pain killers. Even the expectation that something funny is coming suffices to bring about positive effects.

Humor also helps the brain regulate the brain's dopamine levels, reports a Stanford research team in the December 4, 2003, issue of the journal Neuron. The Stanford team examined the brains of 16 study participants looking at cartoons that had been previously rated as funny or non-funny. They found that the funny cartoons activated a cluster of areas in the brain's limbic system that are crucially involved in the regulation of dopamine. The findings indicate that humor can have positive effects not only on mood, but also on motivation and feelings of reward.

To get the fun going, call friends you have ignored for weeks and arrange to meet them in the near future. If you don't have all that many friends, it's time to make new ones. Get a new hobby or two. Sign up for boxing lessons or rock climbing. Learn how to paint or join a single people's network.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part V

Week 3: Now what?

In week 3 it’s time to realize that if you haven’t heard from your ex at this point, you probably won’t hear from him in the near future. Don’t contact him at any point, unless he contacts you first. Have some self-respect.

Then get rid of physical reminders of your him use the trashcan, not the window). If you can't get yourself to throw them out, keep them in a box that is not easy to get to. Delete his phone number from your phone directory and delete his email and other easy ways of contacting him. Do not unfriend him on Facebook. Don't be silly. Nowadays people who have barely met are friends on Facebook. You can stay friends with him. But resist the temptation to check out his Facebook page or his other social media sites every two hours. You are done with that.

The rest of this week, use mental simulation to prepare yourself for situations in which in which your ex pops back into your life in unexpected and unpleasant ways, such as if you were to bump into him with a new girlfriend under his arm or if you were to see him hitting on another girl at a party. Find ways that you can stay sane even in these unpleasant circumstances. You also need to prepare yourself for down days, days where you suddenly miss him more than you ever did and might be tempted to contact him.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part IV

Week 2: What If

You made it to week 2. Congratulations! At this point, it's time to review the earlier posts on mental simulation and use this technique to prepare yourself for a potential call from your ex. It may not be over yet!

The less you have contacted him since he broke up with you, the more likely it is that he will contact you. The more feelings he had for you at any point during your relationship, the more likely it is that he will contact you or want to get back together.

If you have already pleaded with him to come back, contacted him multiple times and thrown serious temper-tantrums since the break-up, you may never hear from him again. And if he was never very much into you, you may never hear from him again.

But if your ex really liked you before the breakup, the breakup occurred recently, and you responded calmly to his decision and haven't contacted him since, then the likelihood that he will contact you is huge.

People don’t fall out of love suddenly. He is still into you. But it may not last long, depending on how you behave. If you contact him, make scenes and plead with him to take you back, then you are reinforcing his decision. You are basically giving him confidence that he has made the right decision.

By not contacting him, you are forcing him to face his decision. By not contacting him, you also maintaining some form of control and some dignity. He will be somewhat puzzled by your behavior. The standard behavior, after all, is to contact the one who broke your heart. That’s how people work.

What to do if he does contact you? Don't sound unnaturally upbeat. That is going to come across as fake. Don’t bring up the relationship at all. He ended it. He can bring it up. Convey that you have accepted his decision. Don't mention it. Act that way instead.

Prepare a few lines you can deliver confidently if he does contact you. Have something to say. It could be something interesting you have read, a fun story about your family or friends. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is fun and unrelated to your past relationship. If he asks you how you are doing, then you are doing fine. Feel free to ask him how he is doing. But, I repeat, do not bring up the relationship.

If he does bring up the relationship, don't get sucked into talking about it. Do respond in a friendly way. If he says "too bad it didn’t work out," agree with him. Then move onto a different topic. If he asks if you want to get together, don't sound too excited. Sound the way you would if a friend had called and asked you. You can agree to meet him for coffee, lunch, dinner, a movie, or whatever, if he suggests it. But don't suggest anything along those lines. And if you do get together with him, whatever you do, do not have sex with him. That is not going to get him back.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part III

Week 1: Habituation

A simple way to become less focused on your loved one is to wear down your brain. This method is also known as "habituation." It's a well known mechanism to avoid obsessions and has been used in cognitive-behavioral therapy for decades.

For habituation to work you must do something that seems quite counterintuitive at first. You must expose yourself to the things that make you feel bad. Over time this will desensitize you.

How to apply habituation to breakups? If you are going through a difficult breakup, thoughts of your ex now put your body into a state of fear or anger. This is because you implicitly associate thoughts of your ex with something negative, for example, the fact that he is no longer in your life, the loss of future experiences with him or the simple fact that he turned you down. Thoughts of your ex automatically trigger hyper-activity in your emotional brain.

To desensitize you can't simply stop thinking about your him. That could worsen the situation. Instead you need to break the associations by overexposing your brain to the fear-triggering stimulus.

Allow your brain to dwell on your ex and the things you did together. Put on some music that reminds you of your loved one. Think about the good times you had together, or the bad. Cry if necessary. The only thing that is off limits is making explicit contact with your ex.

Though it may not feel that way, extreme exposure to thoughts of your ex will likely tire your brain neurons. They may fire wildly at the beginning. It's going to feel awful. But your bran activity will slowly become less intense.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part II

How do you treat anxiety and depression associated with a breakup? The radical way would be to get a prescription from your doctor. The newest (affordable) drugs to treat anxiety and depression, also known as "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors," raise the levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain.

According to Rockefeller neuroscientist Jennifer Warner-Schmidt, not only is this class of drugs effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression, it can also reverse the detrimental effects of depression on the brain. Warner-Schmidt and Ronald Duman of Yale University found that the serotonin reuptake inhibitors increased the production of vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, in the hippocampus of rodents. The increased VEGF levels led to the birth of new neurons. Conversely, blocking expression of this growth factor led to an atrophy of cells in the hippocampus. So, it seems that serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help keep your brain healthy.

But wouldn’t it be nice if you could achieve similar effects without taking medication? The serotonin diet, if followed strictly, can do just that. It raises your serotonin levels without medication. Here are some foods and drinks to load up on to raise your serotonin levels.

1. Buckwheat
2. Whey protein
3. Flaxseed oil
4. Bananas
5. Sour cherries and cranberries
6. Fish and Sea food
7. Turkey
8. Eggs
9. Dark chocolate
10. Nettle tea

Buckwheat is high in tryptophan. Tryptophan is essential to the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Your brain cannot make serotonin without the protein building block, or amino acid, tryptophan.

Whey Protein
Whey protein can greatly enhance your health. Whey regulates blood sugar levels and appetite and helps to increase the brain’s levels of serotonin.

Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseeds are great for weight loss and they contain high levels of tryptophan, which is an essential component of serotonin. Adding three to four tablespoons of flaxseeds or two tablespoons of flax seed oil each day can help to alter your mood.

Bananas are another kind of food that contains high amounts of tryptophan. Eat plenty of them as an afternoon snack, as a desert, in whey protein smoothies and in exotic Hawaiian or Thai dishes. Another serotonin-inducing fruits and vegetables include pineapple, avocado, spinach, asparagus and eggplant.

Sour cherries and cranberries
Sour cherries and cranberries contain plenty of melatonin. Melatonin doesn’t have a direct effect on serotonin but it can help you sleep properly, something that may be difficult if you have just experienced a hard breakup.

Fish and Seafood
The good fats in salmon, tuna and sardines can decrease the symptoms of depression and regulate mania. Fish is also rich in tryptophan, which helps the brain synthesize serotonin. You can also take fish oils as supplements.

Turkey is a high-protein food. Almost all high protein foods are high in tryptophan but turkey is particularly good as source of tryptophan. Did you ever notice how sleepy people get after thanksgiving dinner? One reason is that turkey raises serotonin levels, which makes your body relax.

Like salmon eggs are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, which helps stabilize brain activity. You may have to watch your intake of eggs if you have high cholesterol. However, there is no direct correlation between high cholesterol foods and high blood pressure. While egg yolks contain high concentrations of cholesterol, they also contain chemicals that lower blood pressure, reports a Canadian research team in the January 2009 issue of "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." In a series of laboratory studies, the team found chemicals in fried and boiled eggs that, in principle, can turn into peptides with blood pressure-lowering activity in the stomach and small intestine. The findings are still to be tested directly on humans.

Dark Chocolate
Cocoa increases serotonin levels in the brain. Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of cocoa than milk chocolate. Cocoa also seems to lower bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Nettle Tea
Nettle tea is thought to have numerous healing powers, including an ability to fight coughs, remove the symptoms of arthritis, heal urinary tract infections, prevent allergies and improve moods. It comes from the top leaves of stinging nettles. You may have to get used to the somewhat grassy taste. You can also eat nettles after cooking them. They are taste a bit like spinach. When stinging nettles are cooked or dried, the stinging chemicals histamine and formic acids evaporate.

Besides these foods you might want to consider adding the over-the-counter dietary supplement 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, to your diet. In many countries 5-HTP is sold under the trade names Cincofarm, Levothym, Levotonine, Oxyfan, Telesol, Tript-OH, and Triptum. Unlike serotonin itself, the supplement crosses the brain-blood barrier and is transformed into serotonin in the liver and brain.

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The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part I

What you feared most just happened. Your heart was cut out of your chest with a butter knife and squeezed through a meat grinder.

Here you are. Alone. Empty. Yet full of love that has no aim.

Yes, he really did it. He unexpectedly broke up with you. You should have seen it coming. But you didn't. Now you want the pain to end.

I have some good news and some bad news for you. Here's the bad news: Nothing can completely stop the pain. But, and this is the good news, you can learn to live with the pain. You can make the pain less painful.


The remedy is called the 28-day break-up cleanse.

Why 28 days?

During any 28 day period (on average) the young female body goes through various hormonal changes. The sex hormones estrogen and progesterone change radically. Estrogen levels peak around day 14, and this triggers the release of an egg. Progesterone levels peak the last 14 days of the cycle, and this triggers the preparation of the uterus for implantation.

But the 28-day cycle is not all about reproduction. Your immune system, mental health and mood depend on where you are in the cycle. At times when progesterone and estrogen levels are high, women recover more quickly from strokes and traumatic brain injury. The high levels of progesterone during pregnancy may completely protect against extensive neurological damage. One reason for this is that the sex hormones offer protection against certain kinds of inflammation that can occur as a result of neurological damage.

The sex hormones also affect states of arousal. During ovulation women in general are more attuned to male pheromones (sweat, for example), and they are more easily sexually aroused than they are during the other phases. Before menstruation, mood changes are likely to occur, and the immune system offers less protection against foreign intruders.

So, why 28 days? Because if you want to get through your post-breakup blues as painlessly as possible, you must let your body go through a full cycle of mood changes, hormonal changes and changes in sexual arousal.

What’s the aim of the cleanse?

The aim of the cleanse is to train your brain to think of yourself as single and detach yourself from your former lover. You will learn to detach yourself from the man who broke up with you. You will also maximize the chances of him changing his mind but with you being the person in control.

To Be Continued ...

Love Chemicals

When you fall in love, your bodily chemicals go haywire. The exciting, scary, mysterious and unpredictable elements of love stem from hyperstimulation of the limbic brain's fear center known as "the amygdala". Hyperactivation of the amygdala gives rise to a physical stress response in your body.

Hans Selye, a Canadian endocrinologist, was the first to apply the word "stress" to physical and emotional strain. Before that, "stress" was just an engineering term. Selye, who did the bulk of his research in the 1930s, discovered that the stress hormone cortisol has detrimental health effects in rats. Together with other adrenal gland hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, cortisol prepares the body for a "fight or flight" response.

Stress hormones are secreted in situations of perceived danger. They can be present, even when the danger isn't real. For example, they are present in generous amounts in people with fear of public speaking. They are the little bastards that make your heart break dance, your skeleton turn to gelatin and your new Mickey Mouse voice implant make little noises the first time you stand in front of a 100-person audience.

Falling in love then goes like this. Unpredictability, mystery and sexual attraction make the amygdala go into hyperactivation. This signals to the adrenal glands that something exciting, scary, mysterious and unpredictable is going on. This, in turn, results in the adrenal glands pumping a surge of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. Via the bloodstream, adrenaline increases heart and breathing rates, noradrenaline produces body heat, making you sweat, and cortisol provides extra energy fuels for muscles to use.

Love is stressful. Can you quit it? Not easily. When you fall in love, your dopamine levels increase. This motivates you to continue to perform the activities that generated the elevated dopamine levels in the first place.

Love is stressful and highly addictive. It also makes you feel bad, at least periodically. Increased amygdala activation is correlated with a heightened breakdown of extra-cellular serotonin. Serotonin makes you feel good. When your serotonin levels go down, you feel bad. You become depressed or anxious. This is what happens to people in love. They feel good when they are together and horrible when they are apart.

You can now see why one-sided love makes you miserable. Since you are never together with wonder boy or wonder girl, your serotonin-levels are constantly suppressed, your body wants the dopamine-high and your adrenaline glands pump huge amounts of stress hormones into your blood vessels. When you suffer from unrequited love, you are literally at your wits end.